Online and mail-order revenue, 2012, by goods category in Germany (€m)
A feeling of happiness. It’s as if you’ve just received a gift. The DHL employee is, so to speak, Father Christmas for grownups – one who brings presents all year round.Can online shopping really trigger that feeling of happiness? Virtual shopping isn’t exactly an experience for the senses. You can’t touch, feel and try out products when you’re sitting in front of the computer.
Online shopping is kind of an advance payment that the consumer has to make in order to experience that feeling of happiness when the delivery arrives. It is correct that shoppers are not able to touch or feel the products but if you take a look at the online shopping process chain, then – I have to say – there’s an element of wish fulfilment there. Many consumers really dive into catalogues or websites before they make a purchase. They asked themselves: how can I treat myself? What style of clothing is for me? And what could I become if I bought this or that product?
By online shopping, we spare ourselves a certain level of mental anguish and can be more courageous or experimental. We browse in a safe place – our own home – and avoid the public catwalk. People tend to buy items of clothing they might not even have tried on in the shop or allow themselves to pick out a larger size. After all, you can try on things and pick out what you like at home alone or with a good friend in a safe and secure atmosphere and without having to come into contact with the salesperson or other customers.
Moreover, online shopping disconnects you from the actual costs of shopping. You avoid your own personal transport logistics. You don’t have to leave the house and venture into packed shops, and you don’t have to carry bags. You get it handed to you on your own doorstep. This further enhances the feeling of receiving a gift and also triggers a moment of surprise in addition to the feeling of happiness.But why is it a surprise to open a package you ordered yourself?
People resort to subconscious strategies to produce this surprise effect. They sometimes forget what they have ordered. Not because they are scatterbrained but because their psyche takes over. This way they can reward themselves time and again, triggering the feeling of receiving a gift and of being surprised.Stephan Grünewald is one of two founders of the Rheingold institute for qualitative market and media research in Cologne, Germany. His new book, “Die erschöpfte Gesellschaft” (the exhausted society) was published in 2013.
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